« ПретходнаНастави »
for of all which exists, there is nothing which is not sprung of the supernatural embosoned in it, and, saving force-will increatures, moved by it. Sin has so undeified the world in their sight, that even the laws of nature are no more above nature ; but nature itself is law, power, any thing but the hand of God. He is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth ; he is at least out of the way of human asfairs. It may relieve such, to take another view of the case. We have spoken of constituent laws, in compliance bitherto with the general usage of the world ; not inquiring how far what we call by that name are laws governed by sin,-laws of sin and death, superinduced upon what is more properly coustituent. Consider the laws of association, the laws of aitention, the laws of memory, the laws of moral sensibility, the laws of spiritual perception, and, as involved in these, the laws of judgment; low far are these, which we are wont to call constituent, established by the reaction of sin? how far are they corrosions of nature, depravities, perversions, infatuations; and how far are the feelings, affections, views, estimates, and pursuits of men, for ibis reason, but wild and deluded dreains ? ' A suspicion only of this sort, will lead one, who but acknowledges the existence of sin, an awful distance; how far in apogee of light, truth, reason, will it mask to him the eccentric, rayless, track of man! But the prodigal came to himself, ere he returned to his father's house. How far then, may we indulge the suspicion, that when the sinner is restored to conviction, feeling, light, truth, the constituent laws of his proper lise do but become for the line re-animale; and, in case of conversion, the law of the Spirit of life, re-enthroned forever! We assert nothing on this subject; but surely those who are so adverse to what is supernatural, will cease 10 object to divine agency, until they can decide for themselves, whether it do any more ihan 10 surniount the fall, and re-establish whai, in the highest and most perfect sense, is only natural.
It is often objected by the unbelieving, that we regard this special agency as obtainable by prayer. There are many who think any thing fanatical which assumes, that the great unchangeable God hears and regards the prayers of men. But will any such answer us a few questions? Is not God a being of infinite wisdom ? Undoubtedly. Is it not the nature of infinite wisdom, that it act according 10 every thing as it is, and not as it is not ? Undoubtedly ; wisdom fits every succeeding step to every previous one ; and therefore if God were to act as is a spire of grass were not, or were a man, or were a city, it would be a breach of wisdom. Will God then act as if a prayer were not, when it is ? The answer is already given. If then he will not act as he would if it were not, wliy not act as if it were what it is, and answer it? No more will it indicate change in God, than it will fitly to conduct all bis processes. And is there not a peculiar dignity and greatness in that multifarious care which God exercises toward the minutest and lowest creatures ? Why, then, shall it be deemed unworthy of him, whose dignity rejoices in the care of beasts and birds, and who supports the wing of every insect, that it fall not to the ground for want of bis care, that he stop to hear and bear aloft the struggling spirit of the immortal son of his own image,—the lost son ?
But does not the doctrine of special agency imply favoritism, or that God is a respecter of persons ? Certainly it is not said in our doctrine, as stated, that the Holy Spirit operates with a greater degree of energy, in certain persons called the elect, than in some others? It may be so, but we have no certain knowledge of the fact, or any thing to make it probable. A special agency was distinguished (in one use of the term) from any other, as one dispensed for the very reason that it will be effectual; all others are dispensed for other reasons. But it is not said in this, that the operations of the Spirit are eftectual or not, according to their degree. Other things have a bearing on the result, besides the Spirit. There are different constitutions, providences, temptations, habits, degrees of knowledge, pride, willfulness, and moral degradation, all of which must bear their share of influence in fixing the result. That degree of operation wbich would lead one to repentance, might fail to lead another, and so might even a greater; and if so, results are no measure of the grace of God, and will not be taken as proofs of favoritism; how highly soever they lead the subject to prize and adore the measureless love of God. We do sometimes hear ignorant persons thank God for bis discriminating grace, in such language as might well suit the vainglorying of fanatical pride ; but it is never just to construe the language of the ignorant as we might that of philosophers.
Nor is it implied in the true idea of special agency, that it be of a distinct kind in different individuals. If there be any different kind of agency used with the elect, so called, we have no knowledge of it. The bible is entirely silent on the subject, and reason obviously can add nothing. There is a kind of crude philosophy, which conjectures two kinds of influence; first, a convicting, and then a converting influence; which latter is supposed to be peculiar to the elect, and a sort of near sense of God's loveli
This is said of course on the ground, that there is no constituent law of sensibility toward God, however suppressed in the soul, -no possible receptivity in the heart for goodness, till one is created. But is tbere not an oversight here? To say nothing of the perfect untness of the gospel, on this supposition, to be any thing but a demon of exasperation among men; 10 say nothing of the conscious feeling of sinners, that God is lovely in the gospel, and that they are sometimes almost persuaded thereby; how shall a man be convinced of guilt in sinning against a God in whom he could never in his life see any thiny lovely! Others might, perhaps, think him guilly; but bow shall he think himself guilty ? A sense, in some degree, of God's beauty and perfection, is the precondition of all guilt ; and therefore if there is such a distinction of kind in spiritual agency as that we name, the order of precedence should certainly be reversed. The truth, however, seems to be, that all men have a sense of God's loveliness in about the same degree that they have of their guilt; and both these, which are common impressions in the sinful mind, are wrought up by the Spirit into a sort of climax together, and so at length attain to a sufficient energy to subdue and captivate the heart. In this view, every degree of spiritual agency, whether terminating in conversion or not, is to be regarded as of the same general kind. It is adapted, doubiless, to the peculiar character and temperament of individuals, and so far is of different kinds; but there is no evidence of any other diversity.
We cannot beiter close this view of the doctrine of divine agency, than by alluding to a beautiful analogy, in the physical world. How careful of life in all its forms, is nature? If a wound is made but in a vegetable or animal body, bow soon does a certain wonderful power go to work to heal! It is like a mysterious, an angel nurse, applying her skill about the wound, as no skill of man would serve ; ii abates the fever, casis off the dead matter, mollifies, feeds the growth of new substance, until at length the wound is healed, and not a scar perhaps reinains. Now in inind, the Holy Spirit is this healing power; he works 10 heal the wound that sin has made in the undying soul. And surely, if it be worthy of God, to heal the wounds of plants and animal bodies; much more, to heal and restore the marred image of his own life. In both cases the healing power is according to general laws. In both cases it works unseen and mystically. In both cases it is imparted, now because it will be effectual, and now for other reasons. In both cases it operates filly, according to its measure, to the production of soundness. In both cases death ensues upon its suspension. In no other point is religion more perfectly sustained by analogy. Let it be added, too, as a truth never to be forgotten, that as there is no physician in the world who would not despair of his case at once, who would not as soon think of restoring the dead by his prescriptions as of a cure, is only that healing minister of life were gone ; so precisely do we depend on the Spirit of grace; and this withdrawn or grieved away, we fall into absolute despair. And whoever denies the truth or reality of this celestial minister, and goes to work to convert bimself or to hit himself for heaven alone, night as well undertake to heal a wound in a dead body, or upon a dead tree.
Having thus exhibited the doctrine itself of special agency, we turn with confidence to survey its incidents or effects, as seen in revivals of religion.
One of the most marked incidents in revivals of religion, and commonly the first observed, is deep thoughtfulness. The whole community has an air of thought, and individuals are often heard to affirm, that they had been thinking with more and more seriousness for weeks and even months before there were any outward tokens of interest. It is more commonly the fact, that a maoner of thought and reflection is first visible at church, in the family, or in business; though sometimes individuals are very suddenly affected, as at the day of Pentecost. The minds of men are wonderfully quickened in the perception of truth at such times; they seize upon a discourse, which, at any other time, would have been well-nigh unintelligible; they understand it, they carry it away. Sometimes uneducated persons who scarcely ever in their lives before seemed to have a thought, will be found possessed with great and living thoughts. They will express themselves, perhaps, in such a way as excites the mirth of frivolous minds; but one who has sufficient sobriety and penetration to go beyond the meager and awkward terms of their language, and discern how the mind works, will be amazed to find how completely they are loosened from this world of time, which so enslaves the mind and judgment of men, and how fixed they have become in the reality, how possessed with the greatness of truths unseen, infinite, absolute and eternal,--such truths as years of cultivation scarcely enable the philosopher to apprehend without distraction. Is, then, thought fanatical? is it wild or extravagant for a man to think? a poor uncultivated man to think the thoughts, and more, of philosophers ? Let there be only a chance of an bereaster, and surely it is any thing but madness to awake, even though one be stunned by the greatness of religious themes. On the other hand, how reasonless, how like a deluded fool, if we estimate himn rightly,—is the worldling most accredited for wisdom, who, living just on the brink of eternity, yet does not, will not think of eternity!
Conviction of sin, a deep and awful impression of its guilt, and the justice of its condemnation, is another effect of what we call the special agency of the Spirit in revivals of religion. This, 10 those who have been so rational as not to have exercised any thought upon religious truth, and their own personal relations to God, seems like weakness, or fanatical delusion. If such would consent to spend a few weeks in sober unprejudiced thought on these subjects; if they would consider who and what God is, the nature of his government, themselves mortal or iminorial, for what responsible, what they may have done, in what relation they now stand to God, and how it is their wisdom henceforth to live; Vol. VIII.
if they would consider and digest such questions as these, which certainly, as reasonable men, they ought at once to do; we cannot believe that they would any longer consider the troubled convictions of an awakened sinner extravagant. In the mean time, there is no man called rational, whose madness just opinion will so much pily, as bis who stands a creature unawed and careless before bis Maker.
There is great readiness to attend religious meetings in revivals of religion. Such meetings, though frequent, are coinmonly full, and there is a wonderful stillness and attentiveness in them. Sometimes individuals will go iwo or three niles on foot to aliend an evening service. It was the same spirit wbich retained the converts at the time of the Pentecost: they could not separate and return to their respective homes; but they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and in breaking bread froin house to house, accompanied with social prayer and praises to God. Sometimes, doubtless, this feeling may carry a community farther than it is advisable to go, and yet without any departure from what may be called a sane mind. Men do many things which it were better not to do, without any loss of reason or sanity. But why is there so much cry of enthusiasm and folly on this account?
Are not balls, evening entertainments, concerts, and other like assemblies, as frequent in the average of communities and neighborhoods? Are they not beld to a much later hour? What, for example, would be said of a company of young persons of both sexes assembled to pray together till twelve or two o'clock in the morning ? But yet they may well enough meet where all the excitements of dress, and wine, and music, and motion are present to bewilder and betray; and it is a very discreet as well as polite assembly. Or consider the case of an army,—their watchings, their privations of food, their bed often the cold ground and their covering the open sky, their excitements of hope, of danger, and often of rage, -what is it which assembles and protracts the convocation of these worn and suffering legions ? They are assembled to fight, to destroy and bleed, to kill and be killed, and for what? Perhaps for a word, perhaps for an acre of ground, perhaps to serve ihe destiny or the annbition of one man.
is not an assemblage of lunatics; here it is that human greatness has its most glorious theater; here is might, conduct, courage, generosity! Alas! if only five hundred of their number, with good comfortable tents and supplies, were to encamp in the woods three days to worship God, they would be poor fanatical Methodists,so would it endanger their health and their reason.
Another prominent incident is the strong feeling of their lost condition, orien seen in those who are convinced of sin, and the joy and unwonted peace felt by those who have received Christ.
But an army